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Youkilis (oblique) on 15-day DL

Left oblique injury still troubling him

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / May 13, 2009
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ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Red Sox remained optimistic that Kevin Youkilis would avoid the disabled list right up until 6:20 p.m. local time last night. Youkilis stood in the batting cage, testing the deep bruising and tightness surrounding his left oblique for the first time with live batting practice. On his final swing, he tapped a pitch with minimum effort, grimaced, and, as the ball trickled into left field, walked away.

There would be no more hoping. About a half-hour later, the Red Sox faced reality and placed Youkilis, the major leagues' leading hitter, on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain, retroactive to May 5. Youkilis will be eligible to play May 20.

Infielder Gil Velazquez replaced Youkilis on the 25-man roster, and he arrived Monday night, suggesting the Red Sox had worried Youkilis might need a replacement. Jeff Bailey, who has played first base the past week, likely will remain Youkilis's fill-in.

"Watching him take BP, and then sitting talking to him . . . it looked like we were going to be rushing him," manager Terry Francona said. "I didn't want to do that. I think he actually agreed."

Francona said he expects Youkilis to come off the DL the day he is eligible, and said Youkilis could play a minor league rehab game before he is eligible to return to the Sox.

Youkilis was injured when he was hit by two pitches, the second and most damaging by the Yankees' A.J. Burnett May 4. The pitches hit him in similar areas, which led to significant tightness and bruising. The exact injury remained unclear, but the oblique area is one of the most awkward and painful places a hitter can be injured.

"The hard thing is when he got hit, and then he got hit again, I think we all thought, OK, deep bruise, being a tough kid, it will be a couple of days," Francona said before the announcement. "Then somewhere in there, I'm sure that there's been some bleeding, tightness in that area around the oblique.

"We keep day-to-daying it, but what we don't want to do is put him in for an at-bat and turn it into a three-week or four-week, [when it could have been] 10 days.

"We're trying not to react too quickly. It's not cut and dry. We're just trying to use patience. If we ever make a mistake, we want to react on the side of caution."

Also before the announcement, Youkilis did not indicate anything had worsened with his injury. "There's nothing to talk about," he said. "When I'm in the lineup, I will play. That's pretty much the story. It's coming along."

On Sunday, Francona said the Monday offday might allow Youkilis to heal. He had hit off a tee and taken soft toss with no adverse affects over the weekend.

The Sox received better news regarding second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who left Sunday night's game with a strained groin. Pedroia's injury had improved to the point he was available off the bench last night; Francona kept him out of the starting lineup as a precaution.

"Everything really is good," Francona said. "He actually reported in way better than what we probably expected. He wanted to play tonight. That, to me, is the best sign of all."

Pedroia's improved health offered hope that the Sox' injury woes finally may be ending. Jacoby Ellsbury missed two games last week after he hurt his hamstring diving for a ball, and he said yesterday he is still receiving treatment. "It's one of those things that doesn't go away right away," he said.

David Ortiz has been scratched late from a game with a stiff neck. J.D. Drew missed a game with sore legs. In seven games without Youkilis, one of which they played with four regulars out, the Sox are 5-2 after last night's 4-3 victory.

"The good thing is that we've been winning since he's been gone," Ortiz said. "It's even better for him, to give him time to recover. The injury that he has is not a joke. I was talking to him about it today. There's nothing much you can do about it but let it heal up."

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